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Skydiving group Aussie Bigways sets new Australian record for most divers in formation

AAP and Tamara McDonald, June 4, 2019 6:45PM The Advertiser

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The 130 skydivers in formation over Southern California. Picture: AAP/Craig O'Brien media_cameraThe 130 skydivers in formation over Southern California. Picture: AAP/Craig O'Brien


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A group of 130 Australian friends have hung out together more than 5000m up in the sky and set a new national skydiving record.

The Aussies met up in what is called a “130-way”, or 130-person formation*, in the sunny skies above Southern California in the US.

The freefall link-up is a new Australian record for large formation skydiving.

Nigel Brennan, 65, regularly jumps from Barwon Heads in Victoria and said the record-breaking feat was an “absolutely fantastic culmination* of 10 years’ work”.

“The jubilation* among the group was fantastic,” Mr Brennan said.

He said setting a new record was “still sinking in”.

Video of the aerial spectacular shows the jumpers, wearing multi-coloured suits, jumping from seven aeroplanes above suburbs and factories.

Skydiving record attempt

The men and women aged 19 to 74, had just over 65 seconds to link hands and build a complex formation, which had to be photographed to qualify for the official record.

And why California?

That’s home to the latest, large, oxygen-equipped planes and expert formation pilots and coaches who have been training the team, called the Aussie Bigways, for more than 10 years.

Success came on their sixth attempt over a four-day camp, which had been hampered by poor weather.

The jump has since been assessed and verified* by judges from the Australian Parachute Federation.

The previous Australian record, at the same location, was with 119 people.

130 Aussies Skydive Link Record media_cameraHanging on to your mates high above California for a new Australian record in large-format skydiving. Picture: Stephen Tonson

Skydiving is a sport in which people jump from an aeroplane and perform acrobatics in the air before landing with a parachute.

When the skydiver is freefalling — before parachutes open — they stretch out, belly down. In this position the skydiver usually falls at 190-200kmh. If they are diving with head pointing down, they can reach about 240-290kmh.

Supplied Editorial Fwd: tim kolln article media_cameraTim Kolln of Australia, a speed skydiving champion. Picture: supplied

The higher the skydiver is when they leave the plane, the longer they get to freefall. Leaving the plane about 4000m up in the air gives about 60 seconds of freefall. If the skydiver goes higher than about 4900m they could need oxygen to help them breathe, just like a climber on a very high mountain such as Mt Everest.

When the skydiver reaches about 750m from the ground, they activate* a small parachute, which activates the main parachute, which slows the skydiver’s fall by catching air. There is also a reserve parachute in case the main parachute doesn’t open properly.


  • formation: arrangement
  • culmination: result of a lot of earlier effort
  • jubilation: joy
  • verified: checked
  • activate: turn something on or make it work


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  1. How many skydivers were there?
  2. How do the skydivers get up high to start freefalling?
  3. How many seconds did they have to link up?
  4. What is the previous Australian record?
  5. What happens if the main parachute doesn’t open?


1. Skydiving
Complete a Y chart called SKYDIVING on what these divers might have seen, felt and heard when they jumped out of the plane, with these headings in each section of the Y:


Time: allow 15 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English, Critical & Creative Thinking

2. Extension
Create another linked shape that a group of 130-plus could possibly form in another skydiving formation record in the future. Sketch your formation.

Time: allow 15 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: Design and Technologies, Critical and Creative Thinking

Imagine falling about 200km an hour and trying to maintain composure enough to grab the arms, legs or anything you can, of your teammates. What if you missed? What if you crashed into them instead of grabbing hold? What if you couldn’t hold on for long enough?

Write a short retell from one of the skydiver’s perspectives, recounting the events of the 4 days … after all it wasn’t the first attempt that went to plan, it was the 6th! What happened on the other 5 attempts?

Extension: Create 5 questions to interview one of the skydivers with. Each question must start with a different question stem.

Run a mock interview with a partner to practice your reporting skills.

HAVE YOUR SAY: Would you like to try skydiving? Would you be scared?
No one-word answers. Use full sentences to explain your thinking. No comments will be published until approved by editors.

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